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Superintendent Remarks Regarding Woke Kindergarten

Superintendent Remarks Regarding Woke Kindergarten

Superintendent Reimann shared the following remarks at the February 14, 2024 Board of Education meeting.

Dear Hayward Community,

In 2020, just before entering the COVID shelter-in-place, Glassbrook Elementary School was designated as a Comprehensive School Improvement (CSI) school by the state based on its performance on the California School Dashboard in 2018-2019. As you are aware, the Dashboard is made up of both academic and climate data for schools. The state also provides funding for CSI schools to address these academic and school climate concerns.

To help drive improvement, Glassbrook decided to focus on justice, healing-centered and academically aligned thematic units, and support for the academic and social and emotional needs of their students. Our students and families had an extremely difficult time during COVID, and we understand the school’s desire to make sure that students felt comfortable returning to our classes and that our teachers found ways to reconnect with families.

To support these efforts, Glassbrook began a partnership with Woke Kindergarten using CSI funds. After an initial contract, the team extended the contract to three years. 

Despite its name, Woke Kindergarten is not used solely in kindergarten classes, but throughout all elementary grades, and it was only used at Glassbrook.

At the core of Woke Kindergarten’s approach are abolitionist teaching, restorative practices and student and family engagement. Abolitionist teaching seeks to remove barriers that impede student success, particularly among students of color. Restorative practices repair and restore relationships when students make mistakes. Restorative practices, when implemented properly should not mean that students do not have consequences. Missing out on learning should not be a consequence, unless absolutely necessary.

Although it is not our district-wide instructional approach, abolitionist teaching is helpful in creating learning environments in which students gain agency over their education, are treated as whole humans, and are seen for who they are as individuals. 

Glassbrook was the sole school to focus intently on abolitionist teaching, but it has been found to be useful in schools and school districts across the nation. Further, abolitionist teaching is not a curriculum, but rather ways to approach teaching and learning. Teachers and administrators worked very hard to reconnect with families, make students feel welcome in class and empower them as they returned to in-person instruction.

Student achievement 

One of the criticisms of the Woke Kindergarten work is that academic achievement did not immediately improve academic performance. In fact, both math and ELA performance fell from 2021-22 (the first year that students tested after the COVD lockdown) to 2022-23 on the State Dashboard. 

There were, however, other areas in which the school’s performance improved. For example, the suspension rate at Glassbrook dropped substantially in comparison with the 2018-2019 (the last pre-COVID) year. Glassbrook‘s performance on the state indicator for chronic absenteeism has improved from red (the lowest possible rating) to yellow (the third highest possible rating). The school saw a 16 percentage point decrease in chronic absenteeism. Student attendance is a foundational element, because despite any new math or ELA strategies, students cannot learn if they are not in school.

That said, both Glassbrook and HUSD understand that there is significant work to be done to improve academic performance.

Why did we cancel the contract?

Woke Kindergarten was in the third year of a three-year contract that was slated to end in June. The work was substantially done. 

Recently, we became aware of statements by the Woke Kindergarten founder both on the Woke Kindergarten website and on social media platforms. Although we respect freedom of speech and the right for individuals to hold a variety of political views, the social media and other public statements of the vendor do not align with the values of the district and those of many of our community members. 

The personal political and social views are separate from the work Woke Kindergarten did with us.

The controversy over this program---including the widespread media attention, the mischaracterization of the work Woke Kindergarten did with our teachers, social media posts by the vendor, and the public response---is all distracting the district from doing the important work of supporting our students. 

We concluded that now was an appropriate time to terminate the contract. 

We need space to continue this work and to talk about it without all the noise of controversy.

Going forward 

We will continue to support Glassbrook Elementary School and its teachers, staff and administrators. We continue to support the healthy academic and social emotional growth of all students.

Anti-bias/Anti-racist teaching, restorative practices, multi-language learning, literacy and mathematics will remain a focus for Glassbrook, building on the work that the school has undertaken over the past several years. As a district, we will also continue to focus on literacy skills, math skills, multi-language learning, especially for our families who are new to the US and Hayward community.

I commend the Glassbrook teachers and staff for leaning in on these efforts and laying a foundation for continued improvement in both academic and social emotional areas. Our students are brilliant, and they join a vibrant community. Our next steps will include focusing on academic skills, as well as continuing our important social emotional work. 

I also want to thank our teachers, classified staff and school administration for standing strong in the eye of this storm through the criticism, questions, and shamings. It has not been easy. I am proud to have you as colleagues,and I am humbled by the work that HUSD staff do alongside our amazing students. Further, I want to acknowledge our families and students who have continued to support their school, even as it has been mischaracterized and maligned.  

Sincerely,

Dr. Jason Reimann

Superintendent